Hurricane Season Starts With Arlene

The first tropical storm of 2011 is a reminder to prepare for potential disasters

Tropical Storm Arlene is predicted to make landfall in Mexico early Thursday morning
Tropical Storm Arlene is predicted to make landfall in Mexico early Thursday morning NOAA, NWS National Hurricane Center

It’s been a busy year for natural disasters: the earthquake and tsunami in Japan; tornadoes, flooding and wildfires here in the United States; a volcanic eruption in Chile. And now the first named storm of the 2011 hurricane season, Tropical Storm Arlene, is brewing in the Gulf of Mexico.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted an above-average season this year in the Atlantic: 12 to 18 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

With that in mind, this seems like a good time to review the topic of disaster preparedness (well, September is National Preparedness Month, but that’s too late for this in my opinion). FEMA lists three steps to preparedness at (1) Get a kit. (2) Make a plan. (3) Be informed. Dig down in the site for more details, tips and tools, along with special instructions for specific groups, including military families, the disabled and even pet owners. (There’s also a site geared for kids.)

For those people who live in hurricane territory—that is, along the East and Gulf coasts—NOAA has a great site with plenty of information and videos about hurricanes and how to prepare. And whether an active year is predicted or not, people who live in these regions should prepare every year, because as Bill Read, director of the National Hurricane Center, notes in one video, “it only takes one storm hitting your community to make it a bad year.”

And those of you who live outside the hurricane zone aren’t off the hook. Learn what potential dangers are in your area—earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanoes, floods and so on—and make your own preparations. Because not preparing only makes you more vulnerable when the inevitable occurs.

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